St George . Preshute . Wilts


High up on the third stage of the C15 tower is a magnificent C18 sundial. A border of Roman serif numerals from 6am to 4pm frame a complex design of carefully graduated radials that mark the hours and the half hours. The large but slender gnomon casts a long shadow.

St George . Preshute . Wilts – the sundial on the tower

The imbalance in the hour marks – 6 to the left of the noon line, 4 to the right – presumably arises from the orientation of the church and its relation to the angle of the sun (though that’s probably not the correct technical way to express it).

NOTE there is a plausible medieval scratch dial on one buttress (not as yet recorded). It’s status is under consideration by others… If it is deemed a dial I will write it up separately.

GSS Category: Old Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

LILLINGTON . DORSET . ST MARTIN – 3 scratch dials & a theory

St Martin . Lillington . Dorset


GRADE I † C13 origin, chancel & tower C15, porch C17, south chapel C18. Restored 1848. A small hamlet, a fine church, a tithe barn, a manor house. Sir Walter Raleigh prayed here. Perfect rural Dorset – secluded in a valley, reached only by narrow lanes, and very much a longcut for traffic. 2m over the fields from our house, 15+ minutes drive. 50.9127 /  -2.5283 / ST629127


St Martin has 3 scratch dials, all very different. There is a further contender that I put forward as a plausible but very rare type of dial (with a small degree of approval from BSS).


St Martin . Lillington . Dorset – Scratch Dial 1

Dial 1 is located on the SW. face of the buttress at the W. end of the tower. It consists of a style hole encircled by a somewhat elliptical ring. There are traces of an inner circle or partial circle, clearest seen at the bottom of the dial. GLP describes it as very eroded, and dates it as C15 (ie when the tower was built). He refers to 2 lines but I did not notice them and I can’t pick them out in the photos.


St Martin . Lillington . Dorset – Scratch Dial 2

Dial 2 is at 90º to Dial 1, on the SE. face of the same buttress and indeed on the same stone. There are 5 clear lines radiating from a filled style hole, forming what might be called an ‘afternoon dial’. It’s hard to tell which is the noon line: possibly the lowest lines are angled to allow for the dial not facing due S.

GLP also dates this dial as C15. He notes that it may not be in its original position, or may have been (partly) rotated ‘then it might… have been reasonably accurate’. BSS records ‘possibly re-positioned and rotated’. But because this dial and Dial 1 are on the same stone, rotation may be less likely.


St Martin . Lillington . Dorset – Scratch Dial 3

Dial 3, between of the nave window and the side-chapel, is possibly C13. The chapel, added in C18, shades the dial for half the day. GLP counts 4 lines, at least one ending in a pock, and notes shallow marks between lines possibly marking 1/2 hours. BSS also records 4 lines. I presume the uppermost mark or scar is viewed as subsequent damage. The style hole looks as if it has, or has had, metal in it.


On the same buttress as dials 1 & 2 and on the stone immediately below them, is a fairly deep hole drilled precisely and straight into the corner of the stone. Because of the proximity to the other dials at right-angles to each other, I wondered if this strangely-placed hole was also a dial (and if so, whether unique). So I experimented with a stick, with the result shown below. My conclusion is that a prominent gnomon in the vertex would give a clear indication of the passage of time throughout daylight hours. In a way, it might be rather more effective than a normal dial. I could clearly see the shadow from the E. end of the church.

I put the theory out there. As always, any observations would be welcome.

STOKE-sub-HAMDON . SOM . ST MARY THE VIRGIN – 4 scratch dials

St Mary the Virgin . Stoke-sub-Hamdon . Som


GRADE I † C12 origins (Chancel c1100), C13 et seq, restored 1862. A pleasingly geometric church in a fine setting below Ham Hill, the Iron Age hill fort where the original stone for the Norman church was quarried. Close to Montacute House (NT) and St Catherine Montacute. 50.9526 /  -2.7361 /  ST483172


St Mary has 4 dials on the S. side, all of different types and all quite easily found. The different styles and levels of sophistication on a single church reflect the development of scratch dials with increasing scientific knowledge, and their continuing usefulness to the church and the community.


St Mary the Virgin . Stoke-sub-Hamdon . Som – Scratch Dial 1

Dial 1 is low-down on a quoin at the W. end, unusually assertive and straightforward. However, in the middle of the 4 strong lines is a very faint one with a dot at the end. Since it adds little to the dial’s purpose, I wonder if evidences eroded remains of an earlier dial? Also, are the dots either side of the gnomon hole part of the original dial or were they added later? It’s hard to see how they might help the dial’s function. Or so I thought until I saw similar oblique marks in Dial 2, in that case lines (see below).

DEH visited St Mary in July 1914 and recorded: 216. (1) This dial is on the s.w. corner of the nave on a quoin. It is 4 feet 3 inches above the ground, the noonline is about 4 inches in length or a little less, the stylehole is 1 3/4 inches in depth by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 30° e. Type 3.

In the first image, note the Norman window, one of 2 that survive. The other is shown below.


St Mary the Virgin . Stoke-sub-Hamdon . Som – Scratch Dial 2

Dial 2 on the E. side of the recessed priest’s door, is a fine example of a later, more complex design. It certainly marks the hours with clarity and precision. Its sophistication suggests it must be a late dial, my guess being late C15 / early C16. The morning hours are all marked with carefully graduated lines down to the noon line. All terminate in pocks which themselves are graduated from large to small at noon. Two half-hours are marked with pocks. The emphatic oblique incision is hard to analyse other than in terms of marking canonical hours (Compline & Nones?) cf the pocks on Dial 1. Any help to explain it would be welcome.

DEH recorded: 219. (4) This dial is on the e. side of the priest’s door. It is 4 feet 6 inches above the ground, the noonline is 5 inches in length, the stylehole is 1 1/2 inches in depth by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 25° e. Type 3.

A final note for Dial 2. There is some evidence that there was originally a dial on a stone above it, later replaced. There are scratch marks that suggest the end of radials; and a row of dots, including a double dot that might relate to a noon line.

DIALS 3 & 4

St Mary the Virgin . Stoke-sub-Hamdon . Som – Scratch Dials 3 & 4

Dials 3 & 4 are together, one above the other, E. of the blocked doorway with its slender columns. They are quite high (about 10′) in the angle where the S. wall meets the transept.

Dial 3 is the lower of the two. The style hole would have been in the mortar line acting as the horizontal ‘6-to-6’ line, but the area has a large repair that presumably covers it. 6 lines descend from it in a conventional fan, mainly in the lower L. quadrant. Their spacing is imprecise; the noon line is extended.

Dial 4 above is less ambitious. I imagine it is the earlier of the two. There are 3 long lines emerging from a filled style hole. The noon line runs down the edge of the adjacent stone, which looks as though it was a replacement from later restoration work. If so, perhaps the dial originally had lines in the lower R. quadrant.

DEH wrote: 217. (2) This dial is on the s.w. corner of the s. transept. It is 5 feet 1 inch above the ground, the noonhole is 2 inches distant, the stylehole is 1 inch in depth by 1/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 20° e. Type 9.

His record for this location is puzzling because there are in fact 2 dials not one; and they are much higher than he gives. It’s quite possible I missed a dial – his single dial – nearby and at the height DEH specifies. However, since DEH records only 3 definite dials for St Mary, he must therefore have missed (for height?) this pair.

St Mary . Stoke-s-Hamdon – Norman window


DEH recorded a possible 4th dial, but with reservations. He wrote: 218. (3) This doubtful dial is on the e. side of the closed doorway in the nave. It is 5 feet 2inches above the ground, the noonline is 3 1/2 inches in length, the stylehole, if it exists at all, is filled.

I had already photographed it thinking it might be a damaged dial. I’m an optimist and an amateur, not the best combination for a balanced judgement. If this is the dial candidate referred to by DEH, then the style hole is no longer blocked. It looks plausible as a very crude dial, and it is a conventional dial location. Is it a much earlier dial than the others, cut beside what was clearly a significant doorway and now degraded by time and weather? Any views welcome.

GSS Category: Scratch Dials (multiple)

All photos: Keith Salvesen

ALL CANNINGS . WILTS . ALL SAINTS – multiple scratch dials

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts


GRADE II* † Early C13 with additions, enlargement and ‘remodelling’ thereafter; restoration 1869 by Henry Weaver. Cruciform plan of Norman origin. Purdue bells. S. of the Kennet & Avon canal between Devizes and Pewsey (close to Woodway Bridge which I ‘adopted’ many years ago). Wonderful views to the escarpments of the S. edge of the Marlborough Downs. 51.3531 / -1.9013 / SU069615


All Saints is an attractive multi-dial church. Wilts is well-served by the Council, which publishes online Wiltshire Community History. It is a valuable resource, informative and thorough while keeping entries short. It helpfully notes: there are six scratch dials on the exterior south wall, once used to determine the correct time for services. Apart from featuring in the county lists by TWC, there is little other information to be found about them. The W C link: ALL CANNINGS In fact, there are more than 6 dials.

DIALS 1 & 2

Side by side on LHS. of the porch, a pair of dials of a broadly similar type. Dial 1 is the more sophisticated in design and ‘clock range’. I wondered if it was a replacement for the obviously less informative Dial 2.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dials 1 & 2

Dial 1 has distinct lines, of which 4 are more deeply cut. Above these, on both sides, are a further 5 (possibly 6) faint lines. There are pocks at or near the end of some lines. The style hole is quite large and deep.

Dial 2 is simpler and more rustic, with 3 lines of different depths, each with a terminal pock. The noon line is slightly longer. There are a couple of other faint marks and pocks that suggest other lines now eroded.

DIALS 3 – 6

These 4 dials are R. of the transept window, L. of the buttress. The image below shows them all: a prominent dial with a semicircle of lines; above it, a similar, smaller dial with lines mainly in the lower L. quadrant; a rustic spider of a dial below them; and a strange dial with a long noon line and one even longer straggling line.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dials 3 – 6

Dial 3 has 12 lines, perhaps more, ranging from distinct in lower L. quadrant and eroded / faint on RHS. All have terminal dots – the noon line has a cross. The style hole is surprisingly deep. A pleasing design.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 3

Dial 4 is smaller, with the 9 lines mainly in lower L. quadrant. Some are straight, some have slight curves. The noon line is slightly extended. The short lines LHS terminate in the mortar line and do not extend onto the adjacent stone. After some thought, I discounted the smaller hole above either as related or as a residual dial in its own right.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 4

Dial 5 sprawls at a slightly tipsy angle across a stone lower down. 6 distinct lines of differing depths and a couple of traces; partial pocks; and a large cross at the end of the noon line. Other marks, whether existing or added later, rather confuse the overall picture.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 5

Dial 6 is the strangest of this group. It consists of a filled gnomon hole and a very long noon line cut with some precision, and deeper (separately?) on the stone below. The line also extends slightly upwards from the style hole. As such, it forms a very simple but workable dial, perhaps casting a long shadow easily visible from a distance. The other line is notably longer. It runs at roughly 45º to the junction of 3 stones before swerving downwards, fading, then finishing strongly. Were they cut at the same time? By the same person?

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 6

DIALS 7 – 9

Three dials additional to the six noted in Wiltshire Community History. Two are W. side of the transept; the third is at the W. end between the window and the end buttress.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dials 7 & 8

Dial 7 has 5 lines (one a trace) descending from a patch of black lichen, with no visible style hole. The noon line is longer and a true vertical. The 2 outer ones are perhaps Mass indicators.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 7

Dial 8 is immediately below Dial 7, and the simplest of all. A small filled style hole; an accurately cut noon line; and a single morning line in the same position as the emphasised line in Dial 7. This perhaps reinforces the theory that a Mass time thus marked was the important one at All Saints.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 8

Dial 9 is quite different for all the others, and on its own at the W. end between window and buttress. A small simple circle precisely cut, a large style hole for its size, and a single line with a (possibly related) pock. The line is in almost the same position as the those noted above as possibly marking the most significant Mass for the church. Possibly a trace of a noon line (and extended?). I didn’t notice it at the time but the image hints at one.

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 9
All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – Scratch Dial 9


All Saints is also rewarding for those interested more broadly in Church marks – graffiti, dates, initials, and witch marks (aka apotropaic symbols / ritual protection marks for warding off Evil).

All Saints . All Cannings . Wilts – graffiti

GSS Category: Scratch Dials (multiple)

All photo: Keith Salvesen




This article was written a while back, in the pre-Covid era. Now I have a sundial site up and running, this dial and some others from Florence have a new space.

Florence in January.  -8°C at night, zero during the day – but sunny enough in the middle of the day to be able to have coffee or even lunch outside. Apart from the Uffizi, no queues for anywhere. Most significant places on the tourist trail almost to oneself. Despite the cold, there is no frost: the air is so dry that the pavements, piazzas and even the cars are quite clear of frozen white crystals. By the river I caught the electric flash of a male kingfisher flying up from the water to an overhanging bush, his hunting perch. I watched him as he scanned the water below, occasionally diving down and returning to the same branch. Twice, I could see the glint of a tiny fish in his beak. 


Over the years I don’t know how often I have crossed the Ponte Vecchio – or even simply walked to the mid-point to admire the views up and down river from the open areas between the pricey shops. This time I was walking the length of the Vasari corridor that connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the Arno. A section runs straight over the bridge and then passes across the facade of Santa Felicita, into which the Medici family could sneak from the corridor to a large private balcony for spiritual refreshment. Passing the middle of the west side of the bridge, in the ‘tourist photo op’ gap where Cellini’s bust adds to the photogenic view, I have never before looked upwards.


Here, on the roof of a shop, is an ancient sundial, supported by a white marble pillar. An eroded and almost illegible engraving below the pillar records that in 1333, floods caused the bridge to collapse and that “twelve years later, as pleased the Commune, it was rebuilt with this ornamentation”. The sundial itself, with its columnar divisions reminiscent of a rose window, marks the CANONICAL HOURS. The gnomon’s shadow indicates the hour of the day. If the sundial is the ‘ornamentation’ to which the inscription refers, then it is around 650 years old.

If you look closely, you’ll see, halfway up the south face of the hexagonal column, a lizardsundial-ponte-vecchio-florence-1

Seeing the sundial for the first time ever, yet in such a familiar place was a reminder that Florence is a city that demands great attention as one walks through the streets. Many buildings, even unassuming ones, have fine adornments high up that will catch the eye… but only if you are looking out for them. 



SUTTON MONTIS . SOM . HOLY TRINITY – 2 Dials (one unrecorded)

Holy Trinity . Sutton Montis . Somerset

GRADE I † Saxon origins; surviving work of C12 and all subsequent periods BLB. Chancel C12 / late C13, Victorian restorations. An attractive church with its squat tower and portico; secluded and approached by narrow lanes. 6m N. of Sherborne; 7m W. of Wincanton. 51.0214 / -2.537 / ST624248


Holy Trinity has 2 dials. The first is a small unobtrusive scratch dial by the S. doorway, possibly unrecorded unless in the church archives. It was not noted by DEH during his thorough coverage of the area; and it is not in the BSS register. The second (C18?) is clearly not strictly a scratch dial but an early vertical sundial. It definitely deserves inclusion as a most intriguing dial from a later period.


This simple conventional scratch dial is inside the portico on LHS of the door. There are 2 clear lines from the style hole, with a fainter 3rd somewhat offset between them. The deeper cut line possibly indicates a Mass time (Terce).

Holy Trinity . Sutton Montis . Somerset – Scratch Dial


Holy Trinity . Sutton Montis . Somerset – C18? sundial

On the central buttress of the chancel. A single oblong stone slab with the mortar line as the horizontal ‘6-to-6’ and the numerals framed. The top edge of the frame is cut along the stones above; clear on the left one, faint on the right. Large Roman numerals on each side; small ones along the bottom of the dial. IIII for IV. The radials – more distinct on RHS – are graduated, with the noon line termination in a cross. The present gnomon is a simple metal triangle. It is hard to tell whether there was originally a wood or iron style or not.

It is unclear what the 2 iron pegs at the bottom are for, though they appear to be designed to hold up a stone tablet – perhaps at one time a different dial or a memorial slab was placed over the original dial.


Holy Trinity has other features to note – graffiti including dates and initials; at least one Marian (witch) symbol; and a mystery inscription. Sutton Montis indicates a hill hamlet and is clearly marked on historical maps. However I can find no historical or cartographic reference to the ‘valley hamlet’ of Sutton Vallis. And yet…

GSS Categories: Scratch Dial; Old Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

IFFLEY . OXFORD . ST MARY THE VIRGIN – 2 scratch dials

St Mary . Iffley . Oxford


GRADE 1 † An exceptional Romanesque church built mid to late C12 (nave, tower, chancel) with later additions, restoration, and conservation. The Norman features dominate, especially the wonderful doorways. There’s too much history here (and in Iffley village) to distil: PEV should be the first stop, or BHO online Best of all, go there. SE. Oxford 51.7274 / -1.2382 / SP527034


St Mary has two dials, one conventional, and one of a most unusual type that I haven’t met before. In relation to Dial 1, it’s worth mentioning that in 2017 conservation architects oversaw “a programme of conservative repair to the exuberant Romanesque masonry of the church’s west front and south door. This included the application by stone conservators of a pigmented limewash, helping to preserve the stone and improve the overall legibility of the facade”.


St Mary . Iffley . Oxford – Scratch Dial 1

Dial 1 is on the right side of the lovely S. doorway. It has 4 straight radials, 3 with terminal pocks. The noon line may have a second pock above the end one; there are perhaps other dots. The style hole in the join of the stones creates the horizontal line. The careful preservation methods noted above have to an extent made the dial hard to analyse in greater detail. Fortunately BSS has an archive image that predates recent work. Much more detail is evident; for example the pocks are clearer (and there are more of them). It makes for an interesting comparison.

St Mary . Iffley . Oxford – Scratch Dial 1 (BSS archive)



This highly unusual dial (if it is one at all) is on the S. side of the church, in the angle where the tower meets the nave. It consists of 4 incised parallel lines on a single stone. Just that. The passage of the day can be observed as the sun moves round, with the quoin acting as a vertical gnomon. The shadow cast moves gradually over the 4 lines from left to right, indicating the time of day. Its position suggests that it was primarily of use as a morning dial, perhaps signifying the Canonical hours for Mass. BSS records it as a ‘linear scale of markings from the wall shadow’.

St Mary . Iffley . Oxford – Scratch Dial 2

The photos below give an idea of how the dial works in practice. I visited on a sunny day, but unfortunately at the wrong time of day to test the shadow theory. This dial is yet another that I need to revisit to understand it.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

All photos: Keith Salvesen

ASHINGTON . SOM . ST VINCENT – 2 Scratch Dials

St Vincent . Ashington . Som.


GRADE I † C13 origins in simple form, with later additions of porch, nave and chancel. A pretty and unassuming small church adorned with a notable bell turret. BLB highlights a number of interesting features. Located between Yeovil and RNAS Yeovilton, close to several other good ‘dial’ churches. 50.9904 /  -2.6267 / ST561214



The buttress where the nave joins the chancel is the focal point for 2 scratch dials, one above the other. The upper circle dial is pleasingly elaborate with ± 18 radials fanning out from the style hole, many ending in pocks. Because of erosion I can’t be sure, but given that the circle was evidently complete, I suspect the full 24 hours were once cut. The lines in the lower ‘morning’ quadrant are deeper cut. Some lines extended to the mortar. A very satisfactory dial for an amateur to find.

St Vincent . Ashington . Som – Scratch Dial 1

DEH visited St Vincent and other churches in the vicinity in May 1915. His field research primarily involved locating scratch dials throughout Somerset, taking meticulous but limited measurements of them, and making a general record, with occasional specific notes. As the pioneer of modern dial study, he was less concerned with the finer details we can now hope for, and he rarely included information about radials, pocks, angles and so on – nor put forward theories. Of Dial 1, he simply noted:

184. (1) This dial is on the second buttress e. of the s. porch. It is 6 feet 5 inches above the ground, the noonline is 4 inches in length, the stylehole is nearly 2 inches in depth by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 10° e. Type 4.

DIALS 1 & 2

St Vincent . Ashington . Som – 2 Scratch Dials


St Vincent . Ashington . Som – Scratch Dial 2

DEH 185. (2) On the same buttress, 2 feet 3 1/2 inches lower down, is a second dial. The noonline is 3 inches in length, and the stylehole is 1/2 an inch deep. Type3. May 19th 1915.

He added the comment: The lower of these two dials may be only a copy of the one above, but it is badly weathered and it is difficult to judge. Puzzling, because this dial (to which DEH assigns a different Type) seems quite unlike its companion above. There are few discernible lines, and some are wholly or in part made up of pocks. It is much less ambitious and much more rustic. It almost seems that it was the first dial on the buttress, and Dial 1 was a much more artful improvement.

GSS Category: Scratch Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen


St Pierre . Touques . Normandy


A simple Romanesque church, the oldest in Calavados, dating from mid C11 with subsequent additions. There is scant information online – a few notes converted from French to English. Over the centuries the church was damaged by battles, by lightning strike, and sundry other misfortunes. One source notes In the 17th century the nave was amputated. By late C18 the church was abandoned and in C19 designated a Historic Monument. In C20 it was adapted as a cultural space for concerts and art exhibitions.


This large dial is above the entrance doorway. It has roman numerals and a cross key decoration. There is no gnomon. The lower half is quite eroded. Mortar repair has been carried out rather enthusiastically. There is no date, and it is hard to determine how old the dial is. St Pierre was disused by 1800 so the dial, under its time-worn lintel, seems unlikely to have been added later. On the other hand there’s a sense that the present dial is a replacement for an older one. But a great deal older than the final one shown here.

St Pierre . Touques . Normandy – gnomon-less sundial of uncertain age

For comparison, the dial below is in Colmar (quite near Strasbourg). It never saw 1582.

GSS Category: Old Dial

Photos: Keith Salvesen; CC

LIMINGTON . SOM. BLESSED VIRGIN MARY – Scratch Dial (inside porch); 2 Vertical Dials

St Mary . Limington . Som.


GRADE I † C14 with earlier C13 features -1st Rector recorded 1215 BLB; C15 work and later; C19 restoration. One of several good village churches with dials in the vicinity of RNAS Yeovilton. 50.9989 / -2.6546 / ST541223



South Somerset is unusual for the number for scratch dials located inside a (later added) S. porch beside the original doorway. Limington is one (see also BLACKFORD, for example). St Mary also has medieval graffiti and other marks in the porch, some shown in the images below. As often over the life of a church, walls were whitewashed so the paint flecks are not unusual. For a good example of an ‘internal’ porch still painted over, see WAYFORD.

NOTE: There are also 2 vertical dials, one above the other, on the S. buttress of the tower. In due course I’ll add a link to a separate post about them

St Mary . Limington . Som. – Scratch Dial inside the S. porch

DEH visited St Mary in May 1915 and noted that ‘the lines are sharp and clean cut’. He records:

197. (1) This dial is on the e. side of the inner door of the s. porch. It is 4 feet 11 inches above the floor, the noonline is 5 inches in length, the stylehole, which is in a joint, is filled, and the aspect is s. by 20° e. Type 2


DEH also found a second dial and, from his description, I missed it on my visit and walked straight past it. He records:

198. (2) This dial is on a buttress to the w. of the priest’s door. It is 5 feet 1 inch above the ground, the noonline is 4 inches in length, the stylehole is 1/2 inches deep by 3/4 of an inch in diameter, and the aspect is s. by 15° e. Type 5c.

I took a rather bad photo of the buttress from a distance and can find no obvious dial. However I did find what may be an eroded and be-lichened dial on the angled buttress at the E. end, facing SE. There’s more than one part circle here. So this may be a third dial – or it doesn’t rank as a dial and (if he saw it) DEH discounted it. The latter, most likely. Limington is yet another church to revisit and check. I will amend accordingly.

GSS Category: Scratch Dials

Photos: Keith Salvesen